View Full Version : Using the XA at night

11-19-2008, 00:41
Hi everybody,

Iīm pretty happy with my XA and itīs definately a winner if you want to keep a 35mm well-made camera in your pocket wherever you go, but Iīm not so satisfied with it as a night shooter. Since most of my weekly photo time is evenings and night (not too much to shoot during the day when you work in an office...) I wonder if thereīs any tip or trick for this...

Iīve been using Tri-X 400 and Fuji 800 and with both of them I get good results as long as thereīs enough light (and I mean a lot of light) but letīs say around 8pm in the street or in most indoor scenarios itīs pretty useless and needs a lot os exposure time. Why? Does itīs small lens have something to do with it. Compared to my Nikon F2 it does need a lot more time for the same EV and apperture.

So, any ideas about the best film for night shoots? I thought I might even load it with 1600, set it as 800, and ask the lab guys to process it for that, but since I cannot do it myself I prefer more straight-forwrad solutions.

11-19-2008, 01:50
XA has plenty of max. time to record dimly lit scenes. I haven't used my XA2 a lot in night (it has only 2sec. and f3.5 max. aperture), though a few frames I have had don't indicate major problems with ISO400 film. Mju/Epic with f2.8 lens and max 2sec. (in normal mode, not night portrait) also exposes city in night just fine.
XA should be fine even with ISO100/200 film.

Not sure about XA, but XA2 needs shutter release to be kept depressed all the time while shutter is opened (hear for second click), same as Yashica Electro 35 MC. If release is freed before shutter closes, this naturally leads to enderexposed night shots.

11-19-2008, 11:45
Just came back from the shop with my second XA film (Tri-X 400) and the results are soooo poor... :bang:

Only the shots with a lot of outdoor light are ok, the rest of them are really blury. I just feel like thinking my XA has something wrong, like a weird meter or aperture problems, but the exposures seem to be quite correct.

I can barely get good results with 800 ASA film but I know a lot of people here use it with a lot less sensitive loads. Is there anything Iīm not aware of?

Since most of my camera time is past evening, any tip you wonderful people to help using this camera?? :rolleyes:

11-19-2008, 11:57
Kozhe, from your first post I got impression that night shots are underexposed. If exposures are OK and pictures are blurry, then wearing your shoes I'd make several night shots by putting XA on stable tripod (or stable surface) and activating by selftimer. If even then pictures are blurry, I'd know I'm on market for new camera.

11-19-2008, 12:36
At ASA 800, a properly working XA should be able to be handheld up to 1/15 when set to max. 1:2.8 aperture (need to brace yourself depending on how stable your hands are).

This allows you to take shots at around EV 4 which is practically near almost all places where people usually are seen at night (bars, restaurants, gatherings, etc.).

Then there's push development. Ilford, Arista, Tri-X, practically all the common films are "pushable" up to 1600. This will let you take shots in even dimmer light than EV 4.

Take a look at this chart for further reference:
http://www.fredparker.com/ultexp1.htm#Light%20Intensity%20Chart (http://www.fredparker.com/ultexp1.htm#Light%20Intensity%20Chart)

11-21-2008, 00:34
Problem with push development is that the XA is an automatic camera with no direct control on shutter speed. Sure you can play with the aperture in order to change the speed, but even with 800 ASA and 2.8 it´s really limited.

My opinion so far, the XA is not an indoor shooter at all. At least not past afternoon ;)

11-21-2008, 10:10
Pardon my confusion, are you saying that in order to do push-developing you have to be able to control the shutter directly? How's so?

You can push develop with any program-mode, even fully automatic P settings. It's just a matter of planning and how much extra time you let the film develop in the tank.

11-21-2008, 12:26
My XA seems to do pretty well indoors, though I wish it had a manual mode. Or support for ISO 1600 like the XA3 and XA4.

According to this review (http://www.urban75.org/photos/olympus-xa.html), if you move the aperture slider all the way up to "Flash" (even without a flash actually attached) the camera sets itself to a fixed exposure of f4 at 1/30th of a second. That's not very much control, but it might be good enough if you use a film with wide latitude (like Tri-X).

Has anyone tried this? I think original XA is the only model that allows you to switch into Flash mode without having a flash attached; the others have an interlock to prevent it.

11-21-2008, 13:09
Pushing is easy with the XA- just set the ISO to a higher speed (I routinely shoot 400 speed film at 800 in mine) and the auto exposure does the rest.

For low light shooting, I often use an XA with a flash. The little A11 and A16 flash units both have a little bit of variable power- think of the 100 setting as 1/2 power, 400 as 1/4, and FULL should be obvious- so you can play with more or less light. More often than not, I use them for fill flash. Push the aperture lever up to turn the flash on, then re-set it down to any aperture you like. The shutter is dragged for the available light, via the regular AE function of the camera. Fill flash. Drag the shutter for too long, though, and it may ruin the shot- so don't select too small an aperture. Used carefully, the results generally look really good- not at all like the boring, flat FLASH pictures everyone hates- just nicely exposed pictures with decent light. I carry an XA much of the time and almost always carry a flash with it; I'd say I use the flash for about half the shots I take with it- it's worth playing around with.

11-21-2008, 13:44
I do think my XA overestimates how much time it needs for a night scene. But that usually works out in its favor.

the bigger problem I have is that it's so small, its actually hard to hold steady. But brace against a tree, or streetlamp, and you're golden.


11-21-2008, 13:51
I had the same issue with my XA. I think it's just sort of a limitation of automatic cameras like these. I get much better success at night with my Leica. Having a faster lens (f2 Summicron) and manually setting it to 1/15 or 1/30th of a second I can make outdoor city shots at night without too much blur whereas when I used my XA, I'd get a lot of blurry crap.

Not a scientific test by any means but I found the XA not too useable handheld without a flash at night. Seems to want to hold the shutter open for a lot longer than I would.

I generally use Tri-X as well. I recently picked up a GR1 and am anxious to see how it handles available light exposures at night. Unfortunately it's hard to find a camera as small and well designed as the XA which also lets you control both shutter speed and aperture and has a reasonably fast lens.

11-21-2008, 23:01
On handhelding XA-series, I've found that cool red release not having any practical travel isn't very informative for me. This could add to camera shake.

11-25-2008, 00:27
Pushing is easy with the XA- just set the ISO to a higher speed (I routinely shoot 400 speed film at 800 in mine) and the auto exposure does the rest.

Yep, but the problem with the XA is that since you have no real control on shutter speed, youīll allways have the blury night shoots whatever you use. I mean, even with 800 I canīt get good results in a pub or a dark street, and thatīs allready its max asa setup so I canīt push it to 1600 and reduce the speed.

Just like any other camera, the XA has its limitations, once you know them, you surely can get good shoots from it.

11-25-2008, 02:44
I agree with just about everything that was said above - the shutter release on the XA nor its tiny size/mass do not lend themselves to stability with long handheld exposures. And the 800 ASA limit is annoying.

None-the-less I have gotten quite amazing results from my XA (now sold for a Contax T) handheld at night using Tri-X pushed to 800 ASA (processing in DIAFINE).

Here are two examples, one from Madrid, the other is Santa lighting the Christmas tree in Roskilde, Denmark.



11-25-2008, 19:06
This photo was with an XA @ 1/4s handheld, by a friend of mine. He braced himself well.


The other night I was at a restaurant, the dining room of which is open to a really nice piano bar. I was using the XA with TX rated @ 800 and the exposure was about 2 sec., so there's not much hope for a sharp photo, but I changed position to include some candle light and the shutter speed went up to mebbe 1/8 or 1/4 sec.... the people will be in shadow, but it might be a good shot. Lots left on the roll so I'll have to wait.

No, the XA is NOT the best low light shooter, but if you brace yourself and release at the bottom of exhaling, you might be able to do better than you would think.

11-27-2008, 15:59
Trius - is that a Metro station in Washington D.C.?

If you can't lick movement with the XA, you can always join it!


11-28-2008, 00:05
Nice point and nice photo, Julio :)